In last year’s Holiday One-Shot, A Christmas Cluster, Allie refers to the Scotland trip The Greys took in November. So for this year’s Holiday story, I thought it would be a hoot to write about that trip. Here we go. I’m not sure how long this will be yet, but safe to say this is part one…..
On the timeline this happens little over a month after Fifty Shades of the Moon. The week after Thanksgiving….
On the road to McGovern Castle…..
Christian Grey sat between his wife and his one month old son in an SUV that was more of a mini-bus. With its three rows of bench seats, it had seemed an over-abundance of space when he’d rented it, but with the McGovern sisters piled in, it was feeling a little crowded.
Sisters, he discovered, seemed incapable of doing even the most mundane things without a great deal of…. discussion.
The four women with Gavin McIntyre in tow, had met them at the car rental lot and immediately engaged in this back and forth style of communication. Everything from the best route to the Castle to the placement of the luggage to the weather to the traveling music to the placing of Teddy’s car seat to where the McGoverns themselves would be seated was discussed and re-discussed and then discussed some more. With his wife snickering behind Teddy’s head, Taylor and Sawyer making themselves scarce by aiding McIntyre in loading the luggage into the vehicle the girls arrived in. He was left on his own to figure out the best way to shut this phenomenon down so they could actually get on the road as opposed to merely talking about it. Even Jose had let him down, when he’d scooted by them to pull John into the back seat of the rental, murmuring, “You’re on your own Sugar-buns.”
Finally Mckenna, who more or less stayed on the fringes of these discussions had, apparently, had enough. Throwing the hand that wasn’t engaged in rubbing her temple in the direction of the SUV, she shouted, “Oh, for the love of the Goddess, just sit the hell down!”
Damn if it didn’t work. With sheepish little looks and apologies, the women settled themselves in seats. Either something had shown on his face or Gavin McIntyre was used to this type of thing. After loading all the luggage into the large Jeep with the McGovern Crest on the doors, the large man leaned down and whispered, “They’re a little wound up, what with it being their first trip back and all.”
He nodded, yes that made sense. Other than Mckenna’s yearly trips, the sisters had not been back their childhood home since the tragedy that took them from it nearly twenty years ago. He supposed it could have been worse, and after they got on the road things settled down to a manageable hum with only the occasional snipe and huff.
Allie, seated on the other side of Teddy in the first seat, flipped through various fashion magazines. The remaining three took the middle seat. Christy, settled behind him, was texting her staff at the animal shelter and giving them all occasional updates on Shakespeare, the Bard Owl with a broken wing. Lena sat next to her muttering dire warnings about Bard Owls and Blue Macaws engaging in bloody fights to the death in between complaints about having to pass fashion magazines between Allie and Jose in the back seat. Mckenna was fast asleep against the window. With Taylor confidently behind the wheel and Sawyer riding shot-gun, Grey had just managed to convince himself that they were going to get to McGovern Castle relatively drama free. Foolish he knew.
It started when Christy shouted directly in his ear, “Stop! Stop! Stop the car!”
Slapping his hand over his ringing ear, he jumped, flipping around in his seat to see Mckenna bolting upright with a, “Who’s dead?” Allie closing her magazine with an, “Oh…dear…” And Lena flopping back with a sulky, “Whatever it is, I’m not feeding it.”
Christy was still yelling for “Mr. Taylor” to stop, her hands frantically slapping around for the lock release in the unfamiliar vehicle.
Grey cut his losses. Drama free was shot to shit.
He sent a backwards nod to Taylor. As usual when dealing with these women, he didn’t have a clue what was going on, but Christy looked ready jump out while they were still moving. They had barely halted on the non-existent shoulder when the tiny girl threw the door open and jumped out, running pell-mell across the narrow, two-lane road and into a field towards what looked like a big brown lump.
Behind them, the McGovern Jeep, pulled off the road, the door flying open and a giant leaping out. Gavin McIntyre took off after the girl, bellowing the entire way, “Laura Christiana Rose, do not go near that thing. It could be diseased.”
Both Taylor and Sawyer looked to him with identical bewildered and expectant expressions. What the hell for, he didn’t know. Board rooms and hostile takeovers were his areas of expertise. Diseased brown bulges dotting the Scottish landscape were out of his element.
Soft snorting sounds coming from beside him had him turning to his wife, “Mrs. Grey, that wasn’t a half attempt at suppressing a giggle was it?”
Bursting into laughter in lieu of answering, Ana helplessly waved off his raised brow and choked out something like, “The look on your face.”
Behind him, Mckenna stumbled out of the car, holding her hand over her eyes and gazing in the brown bulge’s direction. He heard a muttered, “Damn, it’s moving.” And then she started toward it with a lot less urgency than McIntyre and a lot more dread.
“What in the blazin’ blue balls is that thing?” Jose pressed his face to the window.
“I think it’s a cow.” John leaned over him.
“We are so fucked.” Lena said the words under her breath, but her low voice carried.
“Lena! Language!” Allie gasped, covering Teddy’s ears, who was sleeping through the entire thing. Even if he’d been awake, Grey doubted at one month his son would understand.
“Seriously?” Lena flung an arm in the direction of the brown bulge, “You do know she’s going to make us load that thing in here.”
“Oh, no” Allie’s worried gaze strayed to the window as she protested with no conviction whatsoever, “We don’t have room…..”
They made room.
Gavin McIntyre came back to them, standing just outside the door Christy had thrown open, a sheepish look on his face, “Uh, we have a problem.”
Resigned to the insanity, he followed McIntyre across the wind-swept field to the brown lump on the grass. The problem turned out to be a cow that looked like a yak and smelled like week old garbage.
“Christy sweetheart,” Mckenna stood by her sister where she knelt on the ground next to whatever the hell that thing was, “We can’t just take it.”
“He’ll die out here, Mac. He’s sick.” Christy protested from where she was kneeling in a damn mud-puddle shivering.
“I’m not saying we can’t help him, but we don’t have any way of transporting him at the moment.” Mckenna patiently and carefully tried to lay out the reality of the situation. Grey took note of both hands behind her back, her fingers crossed, “Let’s get to McGovern Hall and then I can send Edwards back out with a horse cart.”
“Okay,” The tiny girl bobbed her head, “I’ll stay here with Buster.”
Mckenna mumbled something he couldn’t hear, but he read the, “Oh shit, she’s named it.” on her lips.
“Laura Christian Rose,” He had no trouble hearing McIntyre however. His low rumbling voice carried even at a whisper. Not that he was whispering now. No, the man was currently in what Mckenna referred to as mini-me bellow mode, “You are not staying out here in the damn cold with that half-dead thing…”
Enough talk. The girl’s lips were blue for Christsake. Grey walked over and leaned down, gripping her under her arms, and with very little effort, as she weighed next to nothing, he pulled her up and out of the mud. “No. No buts, ifs, ands, or pleases.” He cut off her sputtering protests with the same voice he used when telling board members of floundering companies that there would be no bonuses in their future, “You are going to catch your death.” He turned to Mckenna, who was watching him with a not quite smile on her face, “Take her back to the SUV and get her dry and warm. Tell Sawyer and Taylor we are moving the luggage to the racks on top. So we can load the….” He paused, realizing he didn’t have a clue as to what that thing actually was… “Animal.” He was relatively sure it wasn’t vegetable or mineral, “Into the SUV.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Grey sir.” Mckenna sent him a mocking salute, but when she walked by she whispered, “You’re a good man. We’ll name Buster’s first born after you.”
And so that was how he came to be loading a smelly, horned beast into the McGovern’s SUV. He had it at shoulders near his head. Taylor and Sawyer had its front and rear flanks. McIntyre had produced a roll of duct tape and insisted on tying the hooves together. The thing was barely conscious, but all it would take was a single kick and none of them would ever again father children. It was a tight fit, but he was getting lots of helpful advice on how to go it as everyone had piled out of the rental and stood around them shouting suggestions.
“…maybe if you turned him the other way…”
“…scrunch his legs up….”
“…watch his head….”
“…it’s not an infant…”
“…no, not that way…”
“…look out for the hooves….”
“…it’ll put a dent in the side..”
“…how? It’s barely conscious and tied up…”
“…the horn is caught on the door….”
“…twist the head up…”
“….No, no… back up first…”
“…it’ll scratch the paint…”
“…that thing is rank….”
“….it’ll stink up the car..….”
“…we’ll roll down the windows…..”
That comment from Christy had him looking over his shoulder, with a stern, “No, you will not.” Which turned out to be a tactical error. He felt a tug on his shirt and then….something slimy and cold.
“Shit! He’s eating your shirt.” Lena yelled, then burst out laughing.
Sure enough, the damn thing had burrowed under his sweater and was happily devouring the entire tail of his shirt. When he felt the brush of teeth on his bare skin he jumped back, but damn the thing had a hell of a grip. Before he knew it, he was right up against it, the stench burning his nose. McIntyre grabbed the shirt and tried tugging, but those teeth weren’t letting go, and as the man was weak from laughing his ass off, he wasn’t putting his best effort into it. Between trying to keep the damn yak’s legs still and contorting into strange shapes from trying to suppress laughter that was rolling out of them anyway, Taylor and Sawyer were worthless. Ana was snorting and howling. Allie was jostling Teddy, giggling behind his head. Christy was wringing her hands and saying something about intestinal blockage. Jose was falling all over John who was bent double. And not a soul was helping him.
“Take it off.” That came from Mckenna. She was the only one other than Christy that wasn’t laughing.
“Take the shirt off.” She said, her lips twitching, “You can’t get leverage.”
“Yeah, baby…take it off.” Lena shouted and whistled, “Take it all off.”
Jose was all over that idea, belting out striptease, “Bah-bah-dah-bah-bah-bahms.”
Well, shit. He jerked the sweater over his head. By the time he got to the last button on his shirt, the striptease, “Bah-dah-dahs” had caught on. Shit, John was even harmonizing while filming the incident on his phone. His wife had joined Lena in her lascivious, “Ooooo baby baby’s” and “Show us what you’ve got, Hot-stuff.” Sawyer, Taylor and McIntyre were struggling to hold on to the animal as they were all three bent double and howling. Allie and Christy were turned away, both giggling.
Mckenna was the only one not laughing or cat-calling. He shot her a somewhat disgusted and thoroughly frustrated look.
She just shrugged, “It’s a good look for you.”
He snorted and jerked himself all the way out of his shirt. And well….damn. If someone had told him that he’d be standing fucking naked from the waist up in the middle of a fucking pasture in the middle of fucking Scotland fighting a fucking half-dead yak for his fucking five hundred dollar shirt – he’d have had them committed.
Hell, before this trip was over he might just commit himself.
The damn thing devoured a good third of the shirt before he managed to wrestle it away, with half-assed help from a howling McIntyre. Taylor and Sawyer got it together enough to finish shoving the beast in the SUV, albeit with a lot of cackling and snorting, while he stood by holding his shirt up by one corner, a third of it coated in cow spit and half-digested dark green slime that slid down the shirt and fell to the ground in wet splats.
Everybody else was still howling.
Everyone except Christy, who wrinkled her button nose at him, “Eeeccchhhe, that’s gross.”
“Really? Gross? You think so?” He bit out through clenched teeth, and he was cold and tired and half-naked so the words came out a bit sharper than he intended.
The tiny girl took an anxious step back, “I’m sorry. I’m sure Edwards can get it cleaned.” Big blue eyes blinked rapidly behind those round glasses and he realized she was fighting back tears. Oh no. On hell no. He had to head this off. Those tears were soul destroying. He slammed the shirt on top of the SUV and tugged his sweater back on.
Then softening his voice, he stooped low to meet the small girl’s eyes, “Christiana, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. I’ll contact the local vet myself and get him to come out. I’m sure he can bring any equipment you need to get…uh…Buster there back on his feet.”
“Okay.” With nothing more than a few snivels, she crawled up into the back of the SUV beside the filthy thing, “Did you hear that Buster? We’re going to get you well and you can stay in a warm barn with fresh hay and graze in a nice pasture and I’ll bring you some apples. I’ll bet you’d like apples…..”
The girl was still telling Buster all the great things he was going to get when McIntyre shut the door on them.
“Thanks Grey.” There was no mistaking the relief in those rumbling words, “I know it can be trying, but the girl gets attached.” The man shook his head helplessly, his eyes locked on Christy still cooing to the yak in the back of the SUV, and damn that was not something he’d ever thought he’d hear in his own head.
Shot. To. Shit.